Oldies that don't feel like homework viewing
August 17, 2015 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Many classic movies are famous and important without being very entertaining to contemporary viewers. But others feel surprisingly fresh, in the sense that they still hold up as entertainment: funny qua comedy (rather than funny-for-their-time), or scary qua horror (rather than scary-to-1950s-audiences). I'm looking for recommendations of old films that you think have aged particularly well. Which oldies successfully make you laugh/scream/cry/think on their own terms, without you having to put yourself in the shoes of bygone audiences?

I know that all recommendation-filter is subjective. Still, a couple examples that come to mind for me: the black humour of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane; the melancholic wit of The Apartment; the way the suspense is heightened by our affection for the characters in Seven Samurai.

Parameters: films in any language from the late 20s to the early 60s (i.e. roughly the b&w talkie era).

Caveat: I know that not every aspect of a film is capable of aging well; even special effects that still look OK are going to be dated compared to what films look like now. Acting conventions have changed, too. What I mean by 'still feeling contemporary' is mostly the plots and the writing.
posted by Beardman to Media & Arts (96 answers total) 175 users marked this as a favorite
I'll point you next door to the Old Timey Film Club. Sunset Boulevard is tomorrow!
posted by Etrigan at 10:46 AM on August 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

The Thin Man.
posted by Diablevert at 10:50 AM on August 17, 2015 [15 favorites]

Sunset Blvd manages to feel surprisingly 'fresh' just because one of the big themes in that movie is contemporary (ca. 1950) Hollywood vs. silent-era Hollywood, and the gap between those is just so much more distinct than 1950 to 2015. All the stuff that's weird about Norma Desmond and her life is just as weird to Joe Gillis as it is to the viewer, and by contrast, all the stuff that Joe goes through as a struggling writer doesn't feel like it would be incredibly different today.

On preview: ha!
posted by griphus at 10:50 AM on August 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Le Trou
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:52 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Basically most Hitchcock movies are modern/fresh in that way. Orson Welles is kind of a double-edged sword, where it's hard to understand what made him so incredible since it's been so wholly absorbed by the culture, but on the other hand, the movies do feel "modern" in that way (since they brought all that good stuff in the first place).

Gilda is also good.
posted by easter queen at 10:53 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

White Heat (1949) with Jimmy Cagney is a ton of fun.

I recently saw the 1958 Polish film Ashes and Diamonds, which kind of sounds like homework on paper (foreign, political, longish) but it's completely exciting and strange and beautiful.
posted by theodolite at 10:54 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Some Like it Hot is genuinely hilarious.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:00 AM on August 17, 2015 [24 favorites]

I think the old silent Nosferatu is really scary. Film noirs, like the aforementioned Sunset Blvd, Double Indemnity, Maltese Falcon, The Third Man, lots of great ones like that are still quite exciting.
posted by feste at 11:03 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I expected Buston Keaton movies to funny-for-their-time, but they are legit hilarious and effortless to watch.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:06 AM on August 17, 2015 [12 favorites]

I often feel out of touch when it comes to what is considered "modernity" but here's a few that I think would work for what you're looking for:

The excellent noir Laura. Maybe Miracle of Morgan's Creek - not the best Preston Sturges but I think it has kind of modern plotline. I think the performances & general subtext in The Big Knife are modern. Seconding Third Man.

Maybe some of the psychological westerns from the 50's like Track of the Cat or Day of the Outlaw.

Easter Queen: Basically most Hitchcock movies are modern/fresh in that way.

Out of curiosity, which ones were you thinking?
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:07 AM on August 17, 2015

(Sorry, I just realized you asked for talkies.)
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:07 AM on August 17, 2015

The rapid-fire dialogue and the strong performance from Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday keep it feeling very modern.

I also agree with The Thin Man.

Casablanca is a lot more interesting and compelling than I thought it would be from the popular image of it.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 11:08 AM on August 17, 2015 [14 favorites]

Some Like It Hot is timelessly hilarious, possibly flawless.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:11 AM on August 17, 2015 [12 favorites]

The Marx Brothers, especially their magnum opus Duck Soup.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:12 AM on August 17, 2015 [11 favorites]

Yup, I came in here to recommend Some Like It Hot as well. No matter how many times I've seen a couple of the scenes they still make me laugh myself sick.
posted by katemonster at 11:13 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

How about Philadelphia Story?
I find it funny and the plot is modern.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:13 AM on August 17, 2015 [18 favorites]

I laughed out loud several times at The Philadelphia Story.
posted by rustcellar at 11:13 AM on August 17, 2015

Just kind of at random and that I've really liked (there are tons of great old movies that have held up).

His Girl Friday (Go ahead and try to keep up with the whip-snap repartee between the leads with your modern movie-watching ears.)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. ("We don't need no steenking badges...")

The Killing (Kubrick, noir, so great.)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (Beautiful to look at, the performances are great, the pacing is sharp.)

The Trouble With Harry. The pacing is a little slow for us moderns, but that's a genuinely funny -- and dark -- movie.

And... well that'll do for now. Lots of great suggestions coming in.
posted by notyou at 11:15 AM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

All About Eve is still riveting, in a bad-guy-character-in-the-reality-show way. I also think Psycho, while is probably won't be scary to modern viewers in the same way it was to viewers in 1960, still holds up remarkably well, partially because Norman himself is such an indelible character.
posted by holborne at 11:18 AM on August 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

Arsenic and Old Lace is a good mix of dark and funny that holds up really well.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 11:18 AM on August 17, 2015 [11 favorites]

Give Dead of Night a try. As with any anthology, some of the pieces work better than others, but overall it was certainly more clever and creepy than I was expecting when I first watched it.
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:19 AM on August 17, 2015

Oh, just thought of another one: Auntie Mame, another Rosalind Russell picture full of great characters. (Not actually in B&W, of course, but I'm assuming you don't actually care all that much about that.)
posted by holborne at 11:20 AM on August 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

Bringing Up Baby
posted by Gordafarin at 11:21 AM on August 17, 2015 [15 favorites]

Desk Set with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy is my favorite movie. Granted it's color, but I think it still fits. It's a fantastic movie with great banter between Hepburn and Tracy with an oddly prescient plot about people, jobs, and computers.
posted by KernalM at 11:22 AM on August 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

Trouble With Harry is an awesome suggestion. As good as Citizen Kane can be, how about Touch of Evil? My favourite Orson Welles.

Couple more 50's psychological westerns:Rancho Notorious and the remarkable Johnny Guitar.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:23 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Birds still scares me. But I have a "birds swooping at me" phobia.
posted by cecic at 11:28 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

It just so happens that yesterday I watched Canterbury Tales, an Ealing Comedy from 1944 on youtube. Even though it was 2 hours long and set in the middle of WWII, I found it charming and fascinating, and I'm pretty sure no one else will mention it.

It focuses on 3 people: a young woman from London, an English sergeant and an American sergeant (who just happened to be played by my high school English teacher) who get off the train at a small town near Canterbury, and how they interact with the locals. A lovely story about how things change with time and how they don't.
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:30 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Wild Strawberries/the Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman
Pretty much anything Melies (his works are funny and quirky, think French Keaton/Chaplin)
The Pickpocket by Robert Bresson
The Red Shoes by Powell and Pressburger
It's a Wonderful Life
Pather Panchali by Satyajit Ray
posted by kinoeye at 11:31 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

The original Miracle on 34th Street. Dialog is sharp, witty, and deeply cynical about human nature in way that still works.
posted by Mogur at 11:36 AM on August 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

It Happened One Night
The Lady Vanishes
(Nthing Some Like it Hot)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:36 AM on August 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

I remember having little patience for "oldies" movies as a kid, but still really liking The African Queen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Re: Canterbury Tales & Red Shoes

I think you can't go wrong with any of the Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger films.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think that North by Northwest is still a rollicking good yarn, even after all these years.
posted by eclectist at 11:50 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Charade (Cary Grant! Audrey Hepburn! Directed by Stanley Donen!) and I also wholeheartedly nth early Marx Brothers (Monkey Business and Duck Soup for sure), Alfred Hitchcock and Sunset Boulevard.
posted by usonian at 11:57 AM on August 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

Kind Hearts and Coronets is very funny, although iirc there's a jarring (and totally superfluous) racial slur towards the end.
posted by theodolite at 12:03 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Brief Encounter.
posted by JanetLand at 12:10 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cat People is possibly the best bad horror movie ever made. The remake in '82 is prettier, but nowhere near as much fun with a bowl of popcorn to throw at the screen.
posted by bonehead at 12:15 PM on August 17, 2015

The Third Man
Night of the Hunter
12 Angry Men
posted by starman at 12:29 PM on August 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

Night of the Hunter
Cape Fear (the original, of course- it really made my skin crawl.)
High Noon (Really surprised me.)
Kurasawa. Everything.
And just for visual intrigue, M. Peter Lorre had the weirdest charisma...!
posted by JulesER at 12:34 PM on August 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

Seconding The African Queen and The Thin Man (and first two sequels to it).

My Man Godfrey (1936) is also great. William Powell was a genius. Love Crazy and Libeled Lady are both hilarious every time.

Red Dust (1932) is a pre-code gem.

Ball of Fire has Barbara Stanwyk playing against Gary Cooper in a loose retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Also, musical number with Gene Krupa!

Love Me or Leave Me (1955) is a little later, but is a nice dramatic piece with great perfomances by James Cagney and Doris Day. Not the chirpy comedic stuff she was more famous for later.
posted by monopas at 12:37 PM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've noticed that a lot of older movies seem "off" to me and I think that part of it is a change in acting style. Maureen O'Hara, for example, in Miracle on 34th Street, bugs me and I'm not entirely sure why. I use words like "mannered" or "stylized", but that's just to hide the fact that I have no idea what I'm talking about. Or maybe it's not a different style so much as the fact that she wasn't a good actress/wasn't good in that role/I plain just don't like her. You got me.

Still, it's worth considering. I have a feeling that older movies might have more "stagy" acting than a lot of modern fair, and that might be something that turns you off.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:42 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

A Face In The Crowd
posted by rhizome at 12:46 PM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

The 1944 Gaslight (with Ingrid Bergman!) is very suspenseful and creepy!
posted by zinful at 12:50 PM on August 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Not seen by enough but nearly perfect:
Trouble in Paradise.
Night of the Demon.
Among Hitchcock: Notorious.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:01 PM on August 17, 2015

The Lady Eve is brisk and very funny.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:05 PM on August 17, 2015

Just watched Rosemary's Baby on Saturday night. 100% Fresh, excellent movie.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:20 PM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Knife in the Water 1962 - Roman Polanski's suspense film about a couple and a hitchhiker on a sailboat
Arsenic and Old Lace 1944 - Madcap comedy with Cary Grant. I think this holds up because it is quite dark, and that never goes out of style.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:27 PM on August 17, 2015

And of course Lawrence of Arabia 1962. Absolutely spellbinding.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:29 PM on August 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

Another excellent one from Cary Grant & Kathryn Hepburn: Holiday.
posted by JanetLand at 1:29 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had a friend who worked in the movie biz. He said that Rio Bravo remains one of the most requested movies. He gave a little talk illustrating the themes. To me, it always just seemed like a routine vehicle for John Wayne.

Other westerns would be The Tin Star (Henry Fonda) and, of course, Shane.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:47 PM on August 17, 2015

So many great recommendations here. I was accidentally watching Bridge Over the River Kwai last night, I didn't mean to but I just started it and got sucked in, I forgot how good it is. Seconding The Third Man also, so great, and actually laugh-out-loud funny in a couple of scenes. (The 'parrot bit me' exchange is the best thing.)

Night of the Hunter (1955) feels very old-timey classic Hollywood in some scenes but in others it builds up a sense of dread as well or better than a lot of modern horror. Robert Mitchum is just electric on screen. Same with Cape Fear (1962), Mitchum radiates menace in every scene and Gregory Peck can barely keep up with him.

It's a bit outside your range but I recently watched Frenzy (1972), Hitchcock's second-to-last film, and I thought it was surprisingly fresh in some ways. Some scenes feel very 70s but moments later you'll have a scene or an exchange that wouldn't be out of place in film from the last few years. A bit darker than expected as well. Also maybe have a look at Peeping Tom (1960), which was ahead of its time in a lot of ways, in fact its themes of voyeurism and isolation might be more relevant today than they were 50 years ago.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 2:44 PM on August 17, 2015

Roman Holiday. Singing in the Rain.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 2:53 PM on August 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

Citizen Kane is truly fantastic.
posted by metasarah at 3:01 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films are fun.
posted by merejane at 3:03 PM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Paul Bartel, who directed Death Race 2000 and appeared in Rock-n-Roll High School, did a pitch-black comedy in 1982 named Eating Raoul with gags and sex jokes and satire that absolutely hold up today.

It's hilarious; not all Bartel films have aged as well (Lust in the Dust is only worth viewing for Divine's role).

Whether an 80s cult film meets the "classic must watch movies" standard is up to you, but it DOES have a Criterion edition, just saying.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:10 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Third Man. the story is great and it's gorgeous to boot. Definitely one of my all time favorites.
posted by a.steele at 4:22 PM on August 17, 2015

While I think Third Man is a near perfect film, if you watch and like it, I suggest you check out Carol Reed's Odd Man Out. I don't know how modern it is but it is a good one.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:29 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

seconding the marx brothers suggestion, and i definitely recommend Horse Feathers specifically!
posted by burgerrr at 4:43 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is a gorgeous, mannered period piece right up until its final moments, when it suddenly becomes timeless and deeply insightful. Quite a few films in the Japanese new wave canon meet your criteria, too - e.g. "Late Spring", "The Seven Samurai", and "The Burmese Harp". "Late Spring" brought me to tears when I first watched it as a new father.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:17 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Watch Ozu Yasujirō's Late Spring. It's slow and understated, but that's not because of the era -- that's Ozu. If you like it, check out his other films; most stand up just as well.
posted by No-sword at 5:19 PM on August 17, 2015

I watch more old movies than new so I might have a skewed perspective on what's accessible to a modern viewer but here's a few more suggestions from my recent Letterboxd history:

* All Quiet on the Western Front - Brutal and still amazingly effective anti-war movie with seamless special effects.

* M - Peter Lorre was never creepier

* Footlight Parade - Terrific fun, fast paced silliness with Jimmy Cagney trying to save his theater.

* Stagecoach - Even if you don't like westerns, this is one to watch.

* Foreign Correspondent
* Shadow of a Doubt - Two lesser known Hitchcocks but well worth the time. Some great action set-pieces in Correspondent and a terrific performance by Joseph Cotton in Doubt.

* Sweet Smell of Success - You didn't realize how cynical your grandparent's generation could be.

* Hiroshima mon amour - You didn't realized how much sex your grandparent's generation was having either. Just saw this in a theater a few weeks ago and was totally shocked at how modern it felt both in it's visuals and in its attitudes toward women's sexuality and agency.

* Breathless - Another one that looks and feels much more modern than it should.
posted by octothorpe at 5:23 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ozu is an excellent filmmaker and well worth exploring but if Late Spring looks intimidating you might try Good Morning. A pair of brothers refuse to speak until their parents get them a TV. A very charming film.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:31 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Wages of Fear. Great movie.
posted by thinman at 6:02 PM on August 17, 2015

Anything Katherine Hepburn.
posted by maryr at 6:28 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I always found The Court Jester genuinely funny.
posted by ctmf at 6:42 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

African Queen
The King of Hearts
Here Comes Mr Jordan (the original of Heaven Can Wait)
posted by alms at 8:08 PM on August 17, 2015

Somebody mentioned Powell & Pressburger above -- I recently watched Black Narcissus and was blown away. Newly released on Criterion.
posted by Bron at 8:36 PM on August 17, 2015

The Big Sleep is super fun to watch
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:48 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Double Indemnity or The Apartment. Despite being over 50, they fit in just fine with modern movies.
posted by miyabo at 9:26 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

One that hasn't been mentioned yet:

To Be or Not to Be (the original Jack Benny version) Hilarious WWII comedy, there's a sense of life in this film that gives it an ageless aspect.

n'thing: Marx Brothers (Duck Soup, Night at the Opera and Monkey Business in that order)
My Man Godfrey - sharp snappy dialog, and great female characters, quite a romp.
The Third Man - perfect thriller with touches of quirky humor and a classic closing shot.
The Court Jester - absolute lunacy
Of the Hitchcocks- Notorious and Rear Window.
For film noir: The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, Out of the Past.
posted by storybored at 10:15 PM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Nthing His Girl Friday. You will not be disappointed.
Unfaithfully Yours starring Rex Harrison. My husband and I were rolling with laughter.
Agreed that Hiroshima Mon Amour is sexy in a surprisingly honest way.
Nights of Cabiria is an unforgettable movie. Giulietta Messina's work earned her the title of "the female Chaplin" or "the female answer to Chaplin" or something. I think anyone who's felt isolated in the cold city can relate to it.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell are perfect for each other as leads of a buddy movie.
The Lion in Winter Family dysfunction at Christmas in the 12th century.
Rear Window
To Catch a Thief, if only for the scene where Grace Kelly subtly seduces Cary Grant by taking him on a high-speed chase through Monaco and then has a surprise picnic of cold chicken and beer for after. Grace Kelly is the best girlfriend in the world. (See Rear Window, above.)
posted by Pearl928 at 11:23 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I very much agree with the Hitchcock suggestions (Notorious, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest and the Trouble With Harry are amongst my favourites) and also Charade (not Hitch but in the same spirit).

A few months back, I randomly picked up Giant from the library and was surprised at how relevant it still seemed. It is very long though.

Other recs, varying chronology: Birdman of Alcatraz, the original Cape Fear; Don't Look Now; Witness for the Prosecution.

There's a certain horror/thriller/murder theme here; oddly I also like a lot of classic musicals but I know some people hate them. In addition to Singin' in the Rain and An American in Paris, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof; Cabaret; 42nd Street; Anything Goes.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:21 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by jbickers at 2:38 AM on August 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

Roman Holiday
posted by redlines at 7:00 AM on August 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Bad Seed (1956)
posted by Drosera at 8:08 AM on August 18, 2015

It wasn't easy finding one that hasn't been recommended yet, but Seppuku (AKA Harakiki) is definitely one of the greats. Such a simple but beautifully structured narrative.
(Two of my friends who usually won't watch anything made before the 1990s and then even forces them to read subtitles were, after some initial skepticism, absolutely silent and spellbound for two hours.)
posted by bigendian at 3:04 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't think anyone has mentioned Sahara with Humphrey Bogart, which was mentioned by someone in a previous thread about WWII films. TCM showed it about a week ago, and I thought it was fantastic- exactly the kind of film you are describing.
posted by wittgenstein at 5:56 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Since most of my favorites have already been mentioned, I want to recommend a William Wellman western that is a bit obscure but really excellent: Yellow Sky.
posted by gudrun at 8:42 PM on August 18, 2015

Royal Wedding! I love this movie so, so much.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:43 PM on August 18, 2015

It's A Wonderful Life genuinely feels fast-paced enough and compelling enough to me to qualify. Also has a pretty timeless message.

Also, Sabrina.
posted by quincunx at 6:33 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Vertigo. I saw it a few years ago at the Seattle 70mm Film Festival (at Cinerama!) and I was blown away. And nthing North by Northwest. Also Casablanca. I hadn't seen it until about five years ago and I was kicking myself for never bothering before.
posted by gc at 7:54 AM on August 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Key Largo
posted by valkane at 9:05 AM on August 21, 2015

Humphrey Bogart is a modern actor in a lot of ways. He's understated, even morose, in a way many old timey stars were not. Pretty much anything with him in it I can watch eternally.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:22 PM on August 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I feel like this is going to be a personal taste thing; cause I enjoy classics and I really didn't enjoy some of the suggestions presented here. Maybe I don't actually enjoy classics. Anyways, my two cents:

Twelve Angry Men: contrived and overly dramatic in many ways, but remains gripping. Even though "the lesson" about prejudices is cliche now, each of the 12 jurors represent different ways of thinking so well, that you'll probably think about the movie for weeks following.

Elmer Gantry: At 1960's and in color this is barely in your range, but it's a very sympathetic and entertaining look at con men in religion. I wish more people from that generation had seen it.

Casablanca: The first time I watched it my reaction was "so that's where that quote comes from." The second time I watched it my reaction was "holy crap that was some engaging drama."

I'm also a sucker for WW2 movies and Audrey Hepburn, so while I'd love to recommend River Kwai or Roman Holiday, I can't deny my bias.
posted by midmarch snowman at 2:30 PM on August 21, 2015

Lots of great classics have been named but few Caper Movies, the best of which were done between 1945 and 1970 (IMO). So: Rififi, Topkapi, the original The Italian Job, with Michael Caine, and a personal favorite, The League of Gentlemen (nothing to do with Alan Moore).
posted by CCBC at 2:42 PM on August 21, 2015

Some favorites from my own (being rebuilt as hd) collection which have already been mentioned:

Casablanca (1942) 🎥
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) 🎥
The Third Man (1949) 🎥
The Caine Mutiny (1954) 🎥
Vertigo (1958) 🎥
Some Like It Hot (1959) 🎥

Not yet mentioned:

La Dolce Vita (1960) 🎥
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) 🎥
Dr. Strangelove (1964) 🎥
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:49 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I knew Citizen Kane was famous for pioneering cinematography, but when I watched it I remember thinking "this is just great storytelling".

Thirding My Man Godfrey. Comedies from the 30s often seem to have weird pacing, as if they are waiting for an audience to finish laughing, but Godfrey doesn't, and both Powell and Lombard are excellent.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:05 AM on August 22, 2015

Came here to say Rififi, which has already been mentioned, so I'll 2nd/3rd that and also recommend:

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) - kickass noir by John Huston, with Sterling Hayden, James Whitmore, and Marilyn Monroe.
posted by bluecore at 2:08 PM on August 22, 2015

The Women! So, so sharp, biting and funny. Countless viewing later and i'm still finding new cutting and hilarious things about it.

Also props for the best, nastiest, most wryly delivered Joan Crawford exit line in history.
posted by pseudonymph at 11:19 PM on August 22, 2015

I don't think anyone's mentioned The Stranger - Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, and Loretta Young.

Also, Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye is a personal favorite of mine. Filmed in 1973, it was made after the time frame you're looking for, but feels older in some ways -- maybe because it's based on a Raymond Chandler story.
posted by TwoToneRow at 1:11 AM on August 23, 2015

Second the Big Sleep, surprised Strangelove came in so late, I would throw in some old Danny Kaye for fun - the original Walter Mitty is better than the new version for me. Might try Ball of Fire as maybe the first "snobs vs slobs" pic. I've taken youngs to see 2001 a couple times; they love it or hate it. Movies go fast nowdays, it makes the old ones seem sl-o-o-o-w by comparison and conditioning, so, be patient.
Or it's homework, YMMV.
posted by Alter Cocker at 12:31 PM on August 23, 2015

Destry Rides Again.

Story style feels contemporary. This guy backs me up.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 1:38 PM on August 23, 2015

A Hard Day's Night - feels more modern than most more recent films.
posted by neutralmojo at 4:28 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I saw Kurosawa's Ikiru recently and it felt like the story was still extremely relevant to modern life.

Also, The Magnificent Ambersons holds up very well, and then you can get interested in the studio changing the ending.

It's kind of the definition of "homework" in some ways, but To Kill a Mockingbird is just really strong filmmaking and the story is still relatable today.

Hitchcock is really the gateway drug for all of this, though. I was never into old movies until maybe 7-8 years ago when I saw some old Hitchcock stuff and now I go see the old stuff a couple times a month. (Very lucky to have a great theater nearby!)
posted by dogwalker at 6:44 PM on August 23, 2015

The Bicycle Thief
Seven Beauties
posted by xammerboy at 8:52 PM on August 24, 2015

Mon Oncle (1958)
Die Brücke (1959)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:30 PM on August 27, 2015

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